Independence vs. Interdependence

There was a time in my life when nothing meant more to me than my independence. I took great pride in my self-sufficiency. I felt humiliated if there was ever a time when I needed help with something. I wanted to do everything for myself. I wanted to need no one. Ever.

This attitude landed me in the doctor’s office one day when I was in my early 20s and had just moved apartments, without help from anyone, without getting any sleep for several days on end and shortly after receiving a promotion at work that had brought on a great deal of stress.

I thought I was possibly having a heart attack, but after a brief conversation with me on the circumstances of my life, the doctor put down his clipboard and looked me in the eyes and told me that I was experiencing panic attacks and suffering from anxiety and stress – not a heart problem – yet.

He suggested rest and he suggested that I quit trying to do everything myself.

It was good advice.

Today, I still value my independence. I have a strong feeling that I always will. That stubbornly independent streak is pretty much ingrained in the fabric of my being. But I also value my support system.

Instead of feeling humiliated when I have to ask for help, I feel humbled. I’m humbled that there are so many that I can call on for assistance. Grateful for friends and family who come around me in times of need and lift me up. So very thankful that there are others who are willing to come alongside and help shoulder a burden when it becomes it too much for me on my own.

It never ceases to amaze me how interdependent all things are. None of us exists in a vacuum – no one is truly independent. The symbiotic relationship between all living things is so much more complex than most of us realize.

It’s one of the things I have been most fascinated by as I learn more about permaculture and establishing a network of plants that can function together to support each other, provide strength for their neighbor’s weakness, protect each other, nourish each other, have their own moment to shine and then fade into the background so another can grow.

I read an interesting report following Hurricane Irma’s destructive path through Central Georgia. It was about the damage caused to pecan groves and the number of trees that were lost to the wind’s power. The interesting thing that they discovered was that the pecan groves where peach trees were interplanted among them, the pecan trees fared much better than the groves where pecan trees stood alone.

I think it’s a beautiful example of how we are meant to stand together in the face of adversity and challenges. When we support each other, we can all stand tall.